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I don’t know why

Published November 17, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

In my previous blog, I said I didn’t have time to write; however, since 8:00 this morning, I have written sentences for a spelling test with words that have the long e sound (I don’t think we use the schwa as much as we should. Poor Schwa.)  I have also rewritten my Science Year Long Plan or YELP as I call it, I also wrote the description for my class’s donation to the school auction (A very vivid and exciting portrait of an ecosystem in the Coral Reef, trust me, it’s lovely)  And then there are the essay questions about the Gnostic Gospels, John’s Gospel, which BTW  has an authorship that is in as much debate as the author of Shakespeare’s plays, when we all know the Lizard People wrote both. I have to duck now (quack) so I don’t get clipped by the lightning bolt coming my way.

Between that and the information I am compiling for our Felician Sister’s Founders day celebration, I’m writing a lot.

Anyone who thinks teachers don’t get to work on creative writing never had to write a note to a parent about their child’s behavior without mentioning “Bully”, “stop the infidel”, or “slap the fool out of him” doesn’t understand reality.

Just anything.

Published November 17, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

Years ago I was given two bits of writing advice, one from an actual person, one from a TV character.

Connie Whitt-Lambert (person) advised, “Don’t be precious with your words.”

Vincent Grey (character I didn’t much like but had a good writing career)  “Write something every  day, even if it’s crap.”

I haven’t been writing much because I don’t have a lot of time and brain power left by the end of the day to write anything that sings on and  off the page. I don’t know why I want everything to sing, including me, in the morning, to the cats. They do not appreciate my tunes with custom lyrics. This morning’s song was “You’re the crap in my coffee.” It’s a take on “You’re the cream in my coffee”, a song I haven’t actually heard, Fonzie once sang a bit of it to Marion when she felt old and lonely because Howard’s friend had a fun new wife. In that episode, Marion borrowed a harem outfit from Jennie Picolo’s mother and had arranged a feast that she was going to hand feed to Howard who clearly thought she had lost her mind. I strongly suspect that this part of the episode was improvised since when she tried to feed him couscous, he said, “You’re the one whose couscous, Marion” when he brushed her away, she tossed her head and said, passionately, “That’s it! Be rough with me!”

I somehow don’t think that’s what they intended when they said, “Marion. Harem pants. Delightful.”

But, who knows? I certainly didn’t intend for this blog to turn into a stream of consciousness rolling over the rocky morning.

Call me Brook. I’m babbling.


Well, Now is, I guess, then?

Published October 29, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

So life sure has a way of picking you up, paddling you on the bottom and then tossing you down the hallway without much instruction, doesn’t it? Obviously, I didn’t get back to the first part of the Now is Now point (Good thing I wasn’t writing about being in the Now!)

My life moves really fast, which is good because I still have several weeks to go before I get to see BatBeard and I’m really hoping I have the chance to clean the house before he comes home.

On the day I started the Now is Now idea, I got distracted by school work, getting stuff ready for the week and just generally being me.  I do get to create from time to time, one of my better creations was Accidental Chicken Stew.

First you take a huge basket of ungraded math papers and set on the floor so you can sort, grade and stack. Then you put two potatoes on to boil. Return to math papers only to discover that the larger of the two cats has decided she needs to nestle snugly onto the papers.  Then you stand up to rescue the stack of English papers from the other cat and realize that you have to come up with a source of distraction so that you can actually get something done.  Solution: feed the cats and give them a treat, then dash back to your baskets before the cats do. Start grading your papers and faster than you can say, “I TOLD them to SHOW the work!” you notice the smell of something burning.  Go back to the kitchen and notice that you have quite effectively boiled down the water and burned the arse out of the pan. Toss the potatoes into a new pan and realize that you had no idea what you originally intended to do with the potatoes, so you grab the milk out of the fridge while thinking,”Mashed potatoes sound good.” Because you have one eye on the other room, to prevent any new cat invasion, you don’t notice that the splash of milk you intended to dash, has turned into a glop. Now it’s too soupy to make mashed potatoes, so you grab a can of chicken. The cats notice you are opening a can  and immediately think it must be something for them.  Open the can and dump the entire contents in with the potatoes, put the heat on low and go back to grading with two disgruntled cats.

Now is Now part I

Published October 16, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

It’s been awhile (Great. Now I have that Staind song stuck in my head.) Since my return to the Mother Ship, I have been inundated with paperwork, lesson plans and learning the ropes at a new school.

I am on a mission that is very very very important I not screw up.  This is giving me a bit of anxiety, loads of happiness and some damn terrific moments.  It also takes a lot of my focused, coherent thought time (I know, it was news to me that I had ANY of that. )

It is half past early in the morning and I have a eight luxurious minutes before I have to blaze out of here and jump in the line (New, better song, my favorite version is by a little Austin band called Schrodeniger’s Cat. ) of a Monday.  A lot has been happening, most of which I can’t specifically talk about, but I did kick off a weekend of the whumps (A term coined by Esther Hembree to mean something on the sad side of grumpy) by watching The Green Mile.  Great movie, not much of a knee slapping comedy.

It didn’t do much to lighten my mood.  BatBeard wants me to stop watching the news. I can’t, because I promised my students that if we are on the verge of apocalypse, I would bring cupcakes.

Which brings me to Now. I’m writing this in pieces because I don’t have a lot of time.

Now it’s time for my mission.

It occurred to me a few days ago that a large part of my job is to teach my students how to be kind.

And sharpening pencils.

Priceless? Maybe,

Published September 19, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

aI was trying to get the bits and pieces of my brain together to write an essay for Real Simple magazine’s current writing contest, themed “Your happiest moment”.  It had a 1500 word limit and a $3,000 prize. No sweat. I even knew what moment I wanted to write about.

I started a rough draft in an actual notebook. This is how I started most of my better work. I really wanted this to be one of my better works, because after a long long time of trying to figure out what happiness was and how to maintain it and years of therapy and driving miles back and forth to various parts of the Southwest and millions and millions of gallons of coffee and God only knows how many trips to the thrift store/bookstore/doughnut shop, and being called crazy by someone whose job is to give advice at actual commitment hearings (That really happened! It put a joyful feather right there in my crazy aluminum hat.)

I had it altogether. It was very important because my very careful budgeting has revealed that I am short about $400 a month. And I ‘m not dead sure what that is going to come from. (Tutoring is a possibility but not for at least another few months until I get into the swing of things.) The extra cash would certainly help.

Guess what happened?

My best laid plans were nudged, pushed and kicked out of the way by three of my students needing to retest (I blame the pencils) after school and discovering that I needed to fit in two extra lessons into my packed day to get everyone caught up and I somehow dropped a weird glitch into the grade book causing a zero that wasn’t really a zero to pop up in Progress Reports and crush the spirits of a cadre of 9 year olds. So I had to fix all of that. And then I had to go home and re-heat my noodles and chicken for dinner as I made my lunch, fed my cats and pull some things together to wear to school, because, did I mention I have Morning Duty this week? Which means I have to to get to school at 7:15, entitling me to leave at 3:45 unless, of course, you have kids to test or have a meeting.

So here I am 18 hours too late to win the big prize. But it is important to me so here it is:

I am living a blessed life. I have I roof over my head and I kind of know where my meal is coming from. I even know where the cats’ next meal is coming from.  I know that Happiness doesn’t come from other people. It doesn’t come from a place, and it certainly doesn’t care if you’re wearing make-up or if you remembered to shave your legs today.  Happiness pops in and out when you least expect it. I have so many happy moments in my life to chose from, how could I possibly narrow it down to one?

When I finally found the one, I realized that it was many years in the making.

I have always enjoyed singing. When I was a child, I thought singing was simple, just open your mouth and go.  When I was in the third grade, one of my fellow students said I wasn’t singing right. Well, what was that all about? I was smart and in the best reader group, how could I possibly be doing something wrong?

I remember very clearly, my third grade teacher, the beloved Mrs. Craven (she lived next door to the Von Erich family, they of the wrestling dynasty) standing next to me, listening for a moment and then declaring that I was off-key. I had no idea what this meant and being a small bear, I didn’t know how to fix it, so I kept getting worse. Mrs. Craven advised me to just move my lips during that song.

I do not recall what event required third graders to belt forth a musically superior rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but I do recall I did not sing it. I didn’t move my lips either.

Many years later when I was in high school, the Band Director decided that we had the talent to put together our own jazz vocal group. (I have no idea why a school that had a Clown Ministry, really, we did, did not have a choir director) One of my fellow vocalists was listening to me sing and not understand what the director was asking me to do.  She said, “Listen for the note and hit it when you hear it and and you feel it.”  She convinced me that if I could feel the note, I could sing it.

Fast forward to That Time My Head Blew Up. I had many, many challenges, including regaining the ability to to talk clearly and with inflection. I never even gave a thought to being able to sing again. I just wanted to be able to do something by myself that remotely resembled normal. At this point I couldn’t even fasten my own bra and didn’t have permission to shower without someone within shouting distance.

I was not concerned with singing.

One day I was in my hospital room listening to the soundtrack to “Oh Brother, where art thou?”  and just enjoying the blue grass and the song “Down to the river” by Alison Kraus came in. I listened for a bit and right when the bridge swelled, I felt the note and I could sing it.

That was my happiest moment.

I think that’s what you call priceless.


Sometimes it IS just the pencils.

Published September 17, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I have been teaching for twenty-six years and in that time I have the need for pencils. (I know this sounds weird, but it’s true.) When I taught theatre, pencils were imperative for preliminary sketches for storyboards or first drafts as well as for taking blocking notes.  For some reason, actors never have their own pencils.

When I began teaching full-time and I was having to push a mule uphill while trying to teach 160 students per day and communicate to the administration that a Theatre classroom looks different than other classrooms and trying to shove us all in the same size box was damn near impossible, I had a hell of a time keeping up with pencils.  Kids don’t bring their own pencils, and due to some very bizarre verbage in the FWISD manual, no student should be denied the lack of education because they don’t have a pencil. (No one is at all interested in my retort that the students can’t keep track of them because they don’t have any motivation or real commitment to their own education. Ah, that’s a can of worms for another time.)

Last year I worked at  a charter school that was striving to be a paperless campus. I say striving, because, really, nice idea, but how, exactly does that work if you are trying to differentiate education and there are so very many students who are tactile learners who need hands on choices and it’s hard to be hands on with one eye on a computer screen. It’s even harder when some of the kids don’t know how to type.  Seriously. Nice idea.  But either way, I needed pencils for the percentage of time that the computers didn’t work. And kids who were told they are on a paperless campus NEVER NEVER NEVER have a thought about where pencils come from.

Now I am in a more traditional classroom and the mountain of necessary supplies are provided, but I have been blessed with a group of cherubs who take five minutes longer than the rest of the world to do anything, anything at all. I’m comforted by the fact that I will get to live five minutes longer because nine fourth graders will make all of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse wait for them to get a drink of water and use the restroom, or go back for their sweater.  Except it will dawn on someone that Armageddon is likely to be toasty warm, so then everyone will have to take off their sweaters and fill up their water bottles.   Something tells me I’m going to spend that last few seconds of my earthly life shrugging at Conquest and War while Famine and Death roll their eyes at me.

So we have the pencils, but since I don’t have the extra hour a day it would take for 9 students to decide at differing times that they need to wander about the room trying to decide if they should sharpen their pencil, or should they maybe use pen, unless it’s math or a rough draft and then they need their pencil and if the pencil doesn’t sharpen to rapier’s edge, they  have to stare out the window while the mangle the wood , yet somehow do not manage to sharpen the pencil into a workable instrument.

That is why I spent most of last weekend and all of my test monitoring time. (Yes, we had that already) sharpening well over fifty pencils. I started with three for each student, and then that accelerated into sharpening the pencils that were on the floor in the room at the end of the day, because why would it ever occur to a child to pick something up?

Maybe i should warn the horsemen so they don’t trip.

It’s really easy; just look at the side

Published August 15, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I tend to ponder as I wander. (I know the rhyme thing is goofy, but I’m teaching younger kids these days and it takes me a bit to switch the brain back over.)

So much has been happening in the world at large and in my world at small that is making me wonder if I’m actually trapped in an episode of Rick and Morty.  And every day it gets harder and harder to sit down and write something that doesn’t make me want to slam my head on the nearest flat surface.

I can’t even think about the state of the union, because once I process the series of thoughts about a particular day’s insanity, something new and even more horrifying has happened, and then the whole business starts all over again.

Part of the process of teaching includes many, many, many workshops and policy briefings and rules and regulations and a whole alphabet soup of procedures that all boil down to mean, “KEEP THE KIDS SAFE,” The second thing we learn is, “Teach them something important.”

I have to say that I did panic a bit at the overwhelming amount of information, mainly because I have not always worked in/for institutions that felt this way.

As I processed all of that and then the madness in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. (If you have been in a cave on Mars, with your fingers in your ears, on Saturday, August 13, James Alex Fields, Jr, drove into a crowd of protestors, murdering Heather Heyer.   Heyer was among people demonstrating against a white supremacy rally.

It makes me a little bonkers to have that in my head while my primary objective is to KEEP THE KIDS SAFE.

I think what I will do for the second part is teach them to be kind.

That’s important.

And then maybe I can teach some Reading, Spelling and the rest of that.